Rob and Alex Krone can imagine the perfect way to fight boredom during school vacation -- hiking in the mountains, paddling a canoe, singing around a campfire.
Their son, Sam, 7, however, has a different view.
"Do you want to stay home?" Alex asked him as the family paused by one of 60 booths at the summer camp fair at Towson State University yesterday. The curly haired boy nodded his head emphatically "yes."
Bowed by the weight of her 4-year-old daughter on her back, Alex Krone sighed. "We have to get them out of the house and give them something to do for the summer."
Thousands of area parents with the same goal in mind attended the fair, hoping to find a summer camp for their children. Although school doesn't end until mid-June, many of the programs will be filled by the end of April, parents said.
Rob Krone hopes that as summer approaches his son will become more enthusiastic about a nature camp near their Harford County home. "Once he gets there, he'll enjoy it."
Gloria Sadler and Dorothy Stewart huddled together in a hallway the University Union comparing camp brochures while their husbands tended to the children nearby. Selecting a camp isn't easy, they said.
"First you have to make sure the camp is secure," Sadler said. "You want to know the people are watching your child."
"And time and location are important," Stewart added.
Both women were searching for an all-day camp near their jobs in Owings Mills so they could share car-pool duties.
Finally, they had to find a camp their children would like.
Sadler's 9-year-old son, Chase, is interested in sports, computers and science. Stewart wants a camp that will appeal to her 7-year-old daughter's love of art and dance as well as her 8-year-old son's love of sports.
"We have to find one that offers some of both for them," Stewart said.
Chances are they will.
The number of summer camps and programs has exploded in recent years, said Joanne Giza, publisher of Baltimore's Child newspaper, which sponsored yesterday's fair. The newspaper's recent issue listed 250 camps and summer programs featuring activities ranging from baseball and sailing to writing and computers.
Giza said the paper begins getting calls in December from parents anxious to find out about summer camps. "They're home with the kids on Christmas break and they realize summer is going to come," she said.
Prices of the camps range from less than $100 a week to $400 a week for full-day programs, but half-day and overnight programs also are offered. Some run for only a week while others last the entire summer.
Yesterday's fair was a first step for many parents, who will visit camps before deciding.
Yet even with scrutiny and deliberations, parents can be surprised.
Debbie Barringer sent her 8-year-old son, Joe, to basketball camp at Towson State last year knowing of his love of sports.
"The best thing he liked about it was the lunch," she said. "He got to eat in the cafeteria."
Pub Date: 2/24/97